This post is originally from Captain Dave Eden’s site Fly Cast Charters. Check it out for more saltwater fly fishing tips and techniques or to schedule a trip. Be sure to follow our Saltwater Facebook Page for future updates regarding our Saltwater Subscription.
The How and Why of the Strip Strike
Early in January, I had a client get two vicious strikes, have the fish on a short while, and then the line went limp. He raised the rod tip to set the hook on both occasions. In February, I had the same thing happen. I immediately noticed the client had not set the hook. He had the fish on a few seconds, Then the line went limp. On the second take, he was fishing the fly correctly and did a great strip strike. He was rewarded with an over slot red fish. Later in February, I had anther client miss a few strikes by raising the rod tip. On one strike, by reflex, he raised the rod tip, then remembered to strip strike while his rod tip was raised. When that fish came boat side, I got the big red on a boga grip. When I lifted the fish out of the water, the hook fell out of the fish’s mouth. He had not strip striked correctly and, as a result, failed to sink the barb into the fish’s jaw. One of the most useful tips and techniques I can offer is how and why to strip strike.
After casting to a fish or to a bank, you have to keep the tip low and your rod pointed DIRECTLY AT THE FLY LINE. Do not have any angle between your fly line and your rod. You should have the line and rod form a straight line pointed directly at the fly. Fish the fly in with your line hand, from behind the finger that is controlling your line on you rod hand. Try to make the fly look alive. Feed it to the fish. I do two short strips followed by a longer strip. I also vary the tempo of the retrieve, and I always have my rod pointed directly at my line.
I had a guide in Northern California once tell me, “A nymph fisherman is a nervous fisherman.” What does that mean? It means, if you think you have a bite, STRIKE. Salt water fly fishermen should also be a nervous fishermen. If you feel a bump or resistance, STRIKE; it doesn’t cost any extra. The worst you will do is get hung up on oysters, and the best you can do is catch a fish!!! If you don’t strike, you won’t catch a fish.
So, you are stripping/fishing the fly back in. You feel a bump, you see a tail tip out of the water near your fly, or you feel pressure on the line. What do you do? You keep your rod pointed directly at the line and fish, grasp the line with your line hand at the reel, and pull as hard and as fast as you can with your line hand as far back as you can. I like to see a client’s hand end up literally behind their derriere (that is fancy for butt) after a strip strike.
Why keep the rod and line in a straight line? If you strip strike with the rod at an angle to the line/fish, the tip of the rod absorbs the pressure of the strip strike. The fly line and leader stretch enough, you don’t want to have anything else absorbing the power of your strike. When you strike, keep the rod pointed directly at the line. If you don’t, the rod will absorb the strike, and you won’t sink the hook/barb into the jaw of the fish. Don’t worry about breaking the line. You are not using 6X tippet.
Why do you raise the rod tip while trout fishing? Because it is easy to sink a size 14 hook into a fish’s jaw and you don’t want to break the fine tippet you are using. You want the rod tip to absorb the shock. That is exactly opposite of what you want in Salt Water.
Thanks Captain Dave for the post and great fish pictures! – Sam